Classic Race Cars

Ferguson P99 – the first 4WD Formula One car

May 25, 2011

Ferguson P99Designer Claude Hill and racers Fred Dixon and Tony Rolt teamed up with Harry Ferguson to create the world’s first four wheel drive Formula car. Ferguson had always loved motorsport and was keen to promote the transmission systems of his company. Work began on the P99 project in 1960. Claude Hill designed the car to have a 50-50 torque distribution front to rear and it car was built to have an even weight distribution over both axles. P99 was front-engined and was fitted with 1.5-litre Climax 4 cylinder engine, mounted at a slant to make room for the front driveshaft. In addition the driving position was moved slightly off-centre to accommodate the gearbox and rear driveshaft to the driver’s left hand side.

The P99 had its success moment at the race track, when Stirling Moss drove it to victory in damp conditions at the Oulton Park GP in 1961. This is the only time, when Formula One Grand Prix is won with 4WD car. Otherwise P99 didn’t have much success at the Formula tracks, but it was raced in British Hillclimb Championship in 1964, 1965 and 1966, with Peter Westbury winning the title in 1964.

Later the Ferguson Formula four wheel drive system was widely adopted by rally cars and the motor industry worldwide in the form of the viscous coupling. Although designed as a racing car P99 was also a research vehicle intended to show the advantages and reliability of the four wheel drive system.